BWW Reviews: Top Notch Cast Delivers Sparkling PYGMALION
Doing Shaw isn't for the timid, especially for modern audiences which have become expectant of a happy ending. There's a reason why "Pygmalion" remains Shaw's most popular play which has been turned into a movie, a stage musical, and a film musical. It's a classic Cinderella story, complete with slippers... in this case, though; they're thrown rather than worn. There's even a ball - well, a couple of parties, actually. The problem is...there's no Prince Charming. This fairy tale has no happy ending.
There are people who say, 'everyone loves a happy ending.' And yes, almost everyone does. But life is not always Disney sweet, and it rarely comes with a tidy ending. In the end, Eliza, the Cinderella character, is all dressed up with nowhere to go. Maybe something will turn up, maybe she will find her Prince, but we can't know for sure. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call life. As Henry Higgins says: "come back for good companionship, because that's all you'll get".
"Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw, is named after a Greek mythological character. It was first presented on stage to the public in 1912. In ancient Greek mythology, Pygmalion fell in love with one of his sculptures, which then came to life. The general idea of that myth was a popular subject for Victorian era English playwrights.
Professor of phonetics Henry Higgins makes a bet with a fellow linguist, Colonel Pickering, that he can teach a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador's garden party by teaching her impeccable speech. The play is both a sharp lampoon of the Victorian British class system as well as a commentary on women's independence.
Director Norman Blumensaadt has assembled a top notch cast that absolutely sparkles in this production. Amy Lewis is brilliant as Eliza Doolittle. The audience was laughing at her one moment and the next moment your heart breaks for her. This is a role she was born to play and she makes the most out of every moment on stage. Tom Chamberlain, as Henry Higgins, is charming as the confirmed bachelor who doesn't understand the first thing about women. Craig Kanne, as Colonel Pickering, delivers a nuanced performance that makes Pickering more than just a side kick to Higgins. Katherine Schroeder was wonderful as Mrs. Pearce and Andy Brown gives a hysterically understated take on Alfred Doolittle. Also worth noting is Bobby Oliver as Mrs. Higgins who displayed impeccable timing with the dry British wit.
As good as the acting was, I also must praise the tech on this production. The sound design by Jeff Miller was perfect. Ann Marie Gordon's set was smartly designed and worked for the multiple locales with very slight alteration. I also must say the attention to detail in the props was excellent and the costuming by Ann Ford was absolutely gorgeous. Norman Blumensaadt's direction kept the show's pacing tight and the scene changes were precise and absolutely inspired. Take note folks... THIS is how set changes should be done.
One small problem, with the success of The Butterfly Bar at the Vortex, volume from the bar has become problematic. Several times during the evening, we were distracted from the show by the noise from the bar.
In short PYGMALION is a sumptuous feast as far as an evening at the theatre goes that deserves the attention of all lovers of good theatre.
PYGMALION, produced by Different Stages at The Vortex, 2307 MANOR ROAD, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78722 runs Jun. 27-Jul. 19, 2014. Performances are Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. No performance on Friday July 4, and added performance on Wednesday July 16. Tickets are Pick your Price: $15, $20, $25, and $30. BOX OFFICE 512-478- 5282